Delhi Riots: Could Courts Have Handled the Crisis Differently? – Published in The Quint

When we look back at the Northeast Delhi riots of 24-26 February, one question that will continue to be asked is – could the judiciary have intervened?

As things stand today, Muslim victims are finding it difficult even to get FIRs registered, or to avail the compensation that is due to them. Victims are being intimidated and BJP leaders being left out of the investigation altogether. Given these circumstances, could the court have been more proactive and handled matters differently?

This article will examine this question by looking into past precedents while also taking stock of how the probe into the violence has proceeded so far.

What Could the Court Have Done?

After the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, the Supreme Court had promptly started hearing matters and the government of Uttar Pradesh was asked to file status reports. Within three months, the Supreme Court had secured all the details of investigation, compensation, rehabilitation, damage to the properties etc.

The Muzaffarnagar riots were no doubt unfortunate but steps taken by the government were effective. They organised 58 relief camps, medical facilities, drinking water, tents, fodder for cattle etc. Each of the deceased was compensated with an amount of Rs 15 lakh and government employment for the dependent. All this was possible because of prodding by the Supreme Court.

But in the Delhi violence, the criminal justice system seems to have let people down. Despite petitions, there was no intervention by the court. The only exception was a spirited midnight order of the Delhi High Court to rescue seriously injured persons for medical help.

Many victims are still waiting for inquiry on their damaged properties for the determination and payment of compensation. Dead persons have been paid Rs 10 lakh without any social security for their dependents. In court, the police has taken a stand that the FIRs connected with the riots and list of arrested persons are sensitive information and cannot disclosed in public.

These are all matters in which the courts could have intervened. It could have pushed the police to act on all of these issues.

This article was published in The Quint on 19th  July, 2020
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